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Migrating school districts to an effective method for organizing education work

Robert Caveney
Start by understanding the actual problem in education

The main point of this post

If a method is the cause of the crisis, the only possible solution is to replace that method with a different method.


Organizing school districts with testing and the schedule guarantees:

A) some students will be ahead, bored, idle and not working;
B) some will be behind, tending to fall more behind, a problem which only compounds.

A follow-the-schedule method, enforced with tests causes students to fall more behind, relative to grade level, on average, the more years spent in public school.

Moving away from the schedule requires students get some amount of autonomy. This presents a different problem. Many students, are not _yet_ able to wisely and responsibly use the freedom required to follow their own individual plan. When autonomy is provided to students who are unready for that freedom, the result is chaos.

You see the problem. For students to have their own plan, they need autonomy, autonomy many students are not _yet_ ready for.

It seems like our two choices are guarantee chaos or guarantee idleness.

There is a 3rd way from the Latin origination of education, educere, meaning to lead out the student from within.

IF we could, and we can (we have evidence), by leading students through inner exercises in an “inner gymnasium”, little by little (it takes about a month), students begin to better hear the wise part within, develop the skill of the will, and a deep satisfaction takes hold;

THEN it becomes safe to provide the very autonomy students need to work on challenges just right for each student.

This is real education work – leading out the student from within – done by trained educators. Only students can do the knowledge work, the reading, writing and arithmetic.

Leading out students from within begins to solve the structural problem of ‘the-one’ and ‘the-many’ that is unique to eduction work.

…and there is evidence. It works.

Two options for organizing school districts 

1. Continue to use the follow the schedule method, Taylor's method from 1900


2. The (new) I-o method

Please consider the following for your choice.

The national conversation about education does not include methods, but instead consists of  • teachers • teacher unions • curriculum • poverty • parents • more resources for schools (money) • and learning in general.

Below is a satisfying description of a different category altogether, having little to do with learning, two choices for a method for organizing 'the-many' of us humans in school districts.

Choice #1: Taylor's 1900 follow-the-schedule method

This method includes a teaching schedule for each subject and each grade, and benchmark tests, typically 2 days worth, 3-4 times a year. Teachers are evaluated by how well students do on these tests, which has the intended effect of keeping teachers focused on teaching to the schedule.

Because students have different needs, different abilities and different interests,
using a schedule guarantees:

(a) some students will be ahead, bored, idle and not working

(b) some will be behind and tending to fall more behind, a problem which compounds year over year.

While annual state-based tests are required by law, benchmark tests are not required.   Most of the testing during the school year is not mandated at all.  School districts choose to give students several benchmark tests over the school year.   Why?   To try to get students to fit in to this one-size-fits-all follow the schedule method.   As is obvious on reflection, attempting to get wonderfully unique students to fit in to a one-size-fits-all schedule is an impossible job and therefore the wrong job.

Why is this follow-the-schedule method used? A little history will provide the answer. In the process, we'll get a good understanding of just what kind of critter a method for organizing work actually is.

Frederick Winslow Taylor's follow the schedule method from about 1900

What would you do?

It is 1911.

You have a thousand workers and material that enter your factory buildings every day. At the other end, you want Model T cars to emerge, ready to start.

Who does what? What happens first, second and third? The answer isn't obvious, is it?

The first cars were made in garages, one at a time, and then the garages got bigger. As the “garage” gets bigger, and tens, and hundreds and thousand of workers are involved, some method for organizing work is needed.

In about 1890, the first of only five methods for organizing work was invented, in a revolution, The Methodical Revolution, which is now only 125 years old.

Frederick Winslow Taylor invented a way to methodically organize 'the-many' of us humans to collectively add value a little bit at a time, over and over again, very efficiently, with one Model T after another coming off of a production line, ready to start.

Taylor's method, which he called “Scientific Management”, and others called “Taylor's system”, I refer to it as “Taylor's method” because I want to put Taylor's invention squarely into a new domain of knowledge: knowledge of methods for organizing work in a revolution which has had profound effects worldwide.

Getting a feel for methods

Methods always start by understanding what is the fundamental problem in achieving the desired result and then offering a basic idea  for a solution.

For making Model T's (incremental work) the fundamental problem is this: if one person slows down, the whole line slows down! That is a big problem. On the other hand, if I don't slow down to address a defect, I send a defect up the line and now the Model T won't start when it comes off the end of the production line. That is another big problem.

Taylor's “basic idea” swept the world because it was so simple and so spectacularly successful at solving the fundamental problem.

Taylor lowers the priority of quality and gives workers permission to send defects up the line. He uses inspections and a side repair process to remedy defects, and tells workers the most important thing – what I call the Unifying Priority – is to “follow the schedule”.

The basic idea is this:

IF everyone follows the schedule doing their job the one best way (central planners figure out the one best way ahead of time),

THEN everyone keeps working efficiently and no one slows down the line.

And it works!

If we step back and look at Taylor's method, we can see that the first thing to do is for central planning to break down making a Model T into a series of discrete bite-size tasks. Then central planners experiment to find the “one best way” to do each task. Next, central planners design a schedule with just enough time for each worker to do their particular task.

Next teachers are trained. Taylor called the production supervisors teachers because they taught workers the one best way to do their task, and supervised workers to make sure they did the most important thing, follow the schedule.

Recall the initial questions? Who does what? What happens first, second and third? Now we know!

The roles (“who”) include central planners, teachers and workers. First, second and third? First, central planners divide making a Model T into a series of bite-size tasks. Second, central planners find the “one best way” to do each task. Third, central planners string tasks together into a schedule of tasks. Finally, teachers are trained in the one best way to do each task, who then train workers on the one best way, and supervise the workers to make sure they follow the schedule.

This is what a method looks like:

An understanding of the fundamental problem of 'the-one' and 'the-many' for a particular work-type.

A basic idea for how to solve the problem including:

• a cause and effect theory (an IF-THEN statement)

• various roles

• various types of jobs

• various processes

All packaged around a highest priority, a Unifying Priority, which in the example of Taylor's method, is follow the schedule

Taylor's method adopted for education

In 1913, following spectacular success in agriculture, mining and manufacturing, Taylor's method was adapted for education after a tremendous amount of pressure was brought by muckraking journalists to use the "obvious" solution.  

Today's school districts have:

• a (factory) superintendent

• a central planning department (curriculum & instruction)

• a schedule

• a side repair process (intervention)

• teachers who teach workers (students) the one best way to learn on schedule and make sure workers (students) follow the schedule.  

• Teachers get the schedule from central planning, but just as Taylor intended don't report back to central planning, but instead to a principal supervisor who reports to a different assistant superintendent than the one overseeing central planning.  (This organizational structure is called Functional Foremanship.)

• A process aligned with the Unifying Priority of follow the schedule: Teach Learn Test Move on (no matter what, a "D" is a passing score); Follow the schedule.

The cause and effect theory of misapplying Taylor's method to education:

IF some students are unready for the unrelenting schedule,

THEN naturally, some students are likely to fall more behind, get more discouraged.  The problem compounds year over year.

What we now know

We are using a method for organizing work in school districts, Taylor's method.  

• Using Taylor's method for Model Ts keeps workers busy. 

• Using Taylor's method in education guarantees many students will be idle and not working + some students will get more discouraged and behind.

The main point of this post

If a method is the cause of the crisis, the only possible solution is to replace that method with a different method.

Choice #2: The I-o method

The "I" in I-o stands for the inner I or Self; the "o" stands for organizing. The Unifying Priority of the I-o method is Self-Directed Drive.

The I-o method begins by first recognizing the fundamental problem of education, which is students need some autonomy; autonomy that too many students are unready for.

The basic idea of the I-o method is to educate students (lead them out from within) so it becomes safe to provide autonomy.

The cause and effect theory is this:

IF we could, and we can (we have evidence), by leading students through inner exercises in an "inner gymnasium" such that students become more and more able to wisely and responsibly use autonomy,

THEN it becomes safe to provide the very autonomy students need to choose just the right challenges for working to their own ability. As students are more and more able to wisely and responsibly work autonomously, students are no longer idle! Instead, students are busy working on just the right challenge for each.

And it works! (We have evidence.)

The fundamental problem of education

Methods always start by understanding what the fundamental “problem” is and only then offering a “basic idea” for a solution, As we will see, the challenge posed to us by education has little to do with learning.

Education is a different type of work than we thought. Education work includes learning, but is mainly about something else. Education comes from the Latin educere, meaning “to lead out the student from within”.

Students, just like knowledge workers in industry, do a lot of creating and learning, figuring out one problem after another, and creating new things based on ideas or imagination.

The adults who do knowledge work however, are able to show up and simply start working, figuring out what their tasks are, prioritizing the work, collaborating with others constructively. Adult knowledge workers are able to do all of this quite autonomously, wisely and responsibly. Are students able to show up and simply start working, figuring out what their tasks are, prioritizing the work, collaborating with others constructively and do this wisely, responsibly and autonomously? Are most 2nd graders, 4th graders, 8th graders or even all high school students able to wisely and responsibly work autonomously?

No. If so, there wouldn't be an education crisis.

If students were educated, which is to say able to simply show up and wisely work on just what they need to work on, they would all be busy, creating and learning.

For students to work to their own unique abilities they will need some amount of autonomy. There is only one teacher and there are many students. This presents a problem. Many students, maybe even most high school students, are not yet able to wisely use the freedom which must come with the autonomy to work their own plan. If students are given autonomy but they are not ready to wisely use that freedom, what happens? Chaos.

You see the problem.

We need to provide some amount of autonomy to address the fact that students are different, but many (maybe even most) students are not yet ready for the autonomy! It is not safe to provide the very autonomy students need to meet their own needs, work to their own abilities and pursue their own interests.

On the other hand, the schedule doesn't work either, because it guarantees many students will be ahead and idle or behind and idle.

It seems like our two choices are either (1) guaranteeing some students are idle by using a schedule, or on the other hand (2) guaranteeing chaos by providing freedom that students are not ready for.

The education crisis is not a crisis about learning, it is a crisis about educating.

There is a third way, educating students to wisely and responsibly use the freedom of autonomy.   This is real education work, leading out the student from within.  

Students are born with the natural and powerful drive to create and learn. Students are already ready to learn.

Students are not born with the ability to wisely and responsibly Self-Direct that Drive autonomously; that is the result of a good education — leading out the student from within.

We now have the beginnings of a new method, a fundamental understanding of the problem of 'the-one' and 'the-many' unique to education work. How do we know? If like adults, students simply showed up at school and took on one challenge after another aligned with their own needs, abilities and interests, there wouldn't be a problem, would there?

Some evidence

Ron was already quite well-educated as a sophomore in high school. He played football. Naturally, his math suffered during the football season. After football season Ron pulled out the math book, and one chapter at a time, took on the challenges, did the exercises and caught up. Ron was one of two students who consistently were able to do the extra credit problems.

Ms. Fugitt's 5th graders started out not very well-educated. By the end of the year they were Self-Directing their work, doing homework without being asked, playfully Self-correcting their own behavior. As they became more educated, these fifth graders advanced their reading level from on average a 2.4 grade level (between 2nd and 3rd grade) to on average, a reading level of 6.0. This overall average even included students with learning disabilities. The math improved 120%. Students were able to do a great deal of knowledge work, because first they became more educated.

What the education crisis is NOT caused by

Yes. Of course it is good to have good teachers and a good curriculum. However:

• Teachers don't choose Taylor's follow the schedule method

• Teacher unions don't choose Taylor's follow the schedule method

• The curriculum doesn't control which method is used

• Poverty doesn't control which method is used

• Parents have no control over which method is used

• More resources (money) does not change the method used

Taylor's method and the I-o method side-by-side

Taylor's follow the schedule method

The I-o's Self-Directed Drive method

Teach → Learn

Educate → Self-Direct

The superintendent, through the Central Planning department (curriculum & instruction), directs teachers to give students challenges a little bit at a time, following a schedule, and enforced with benchmark tests.

The superintendent, through managers who are well-trained in psychology and methods, directs educators to lead students through inner exercises, a little bit at a time; and, to train students in Lean/Agile techniques.

One year's worth of challenges

All of the challenges

The superintendent provides teachers and students one year's worth of challenges for each subject and each grade.

The superintendent provides all teachers and students all the challenges, from K‑12 + first two years of college.

The work of the teacher

The work of the educator

The teacher meters out the same lessons to all students in the class, a little bit at a time, over the school year.

The educator educates students a little bit at a time, by leading students through inner exercises.

The work of the students

The work of the students

Learn by:

1. listening to the teacher

2. doing the assigned work.

Organize and learn by:

1. organizing the work using Lean/agile techniques

2. doing the Self-organized work



Students are children who must be directed by adults.

Students have the potential to Self‑Direct.

Students must be made to learn.

Students want to learn and to succeed at life.

Three huge benefits come with migrating from Taylor's method in education to the I-o method:

1. Whereas before, only a few people in central planning organized the whole school district with the schedule, now the collective organizing intelligence of the school district is orders of magnitude greater, as each and every student is involved in organizing their own work and helping other students as well.

Deep learning. Students will develop a great deal of knowledge about their very Self and the skill of the will. Students will have a much richer understanding of the characters in fiction, because they will be able to relate to the character's struggles, experience and emotions.

In history, students will be able to evaluate the benefits and burdens of the choices made by real-life figures. What were the unmet needs that caused the conflict? Were there other wiser choices available?

3. Students will emerge ready for life, able to Self-Direct the natural Drive their were born with to create and learn.   Students will have discovered their own interests and dreams and emerge able to attain dreams of their very own.

Which do you want for your child's school?

You are the expert when it comes to making choices for your children.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.  If you choose the I-o method please ● add a comment and ● share this link.

Thank you.

Is this important enough to share?

Mitchell Gooze  (former high tech exec and process management authority) commented about 53419/17520 years ago:

 You nailed it. Every process is perfectly constructed to produce what it does. It's past time we realized this in education and address the root cause problem. 

Rick Maddox  (VP Sales various startup companies, retired) commented about 320257/105120 years ago:

The I-o method is a logical and straightforward way to dramatically improve the quality of our children's education.  Just as industry adopts the best methodologies to achieve its goals, so should education.  Even a moment's thought convinces one that students progress at different rates and in different ways.  Requiring them all to move in lockstep makes no sense.  The I-o method allows individuals to learn at the rate and in the way most suitable to them.  We would be well advised to begin testing this new ideas as soon as possible.

Ilene Val-Essen  (author of parenting books and psycotherapist) commented about 799727/262800 years ago:

I have 40 years experience doing exactly what schoolio is advocating, both teaching parents and teachers how to bring out the best in our children. My book, Bring Out the BEST in Your Child and Your Self, approaches the parent-child relationship in the same way that schoolio approaches the teacher-student relationship. These ideas and techniques have supported families in the United States and abroad for decades. These same ideas have helped teachers at UCLA transform their classrooms. Students are happier and more successful; teachers know that they are making a difference. These ideas work!

Mike Healey  (Sports Photographer and Parent) commented about 1599401/525600 years ago:

 I firmly believe that this is the best thing ever for our schools. WE NEED THIS method in use in our schools and the sooner the better...! We follow the schedule at all costs and that means we leave more and more kids behind every year. 20% don't even make it through high school in the first four years!!! That is inexcusable and this method looks to be the only possible solution. Please get to know and share this knowledge. It's time we throw out the old, antiquated methods and replace them with a method that will work and let us finally be proud of our schools.

Anne Griswold  (Principal, Leadership & Organizational Development) commented about 532361/175200 years ago:

I have been working with CEO's and Executives around the world for over 20 years.  The gaps in leadership are similar to, maybe come from, the gaps in education.  When we solve the wrong problem we get a substandard resullt.  Taylors Method is for incremental work NOT education.  We need a new method and the I-o method is sound in it's logic.  The I-o method provides the opportunity to address the actual challenge of schooling which is NOT about learning schedules and plans but about leading out the student from within.  The time is NOW to take action and support a new way forward. 


Patrick Reilly  (Executive Coach and Consultant) commented about 1596487/525600 years ago:

I concur pretty much with what everyone has said. I think there are many parallels to what is needed in business and my attention often goes to: how can you best engage your stakeholders. In schools this typically means students, parents and teachers.

A business article I have found quite useful is:

The interesting thing is that it comes from McKinsey and it is a very people oriented almost touchy feely approach which is not at all their usual way of viewing the world.

Take a look.

Robert Caveney  (schoolio founder) commented about 792593/262800 years ago:

Hi Patrick,

I did indeed check out the McKinsey piece.   It is very supportive of the idea that developing human potential in individuals increases the potential of the organization as a whole.

Many thanks,


Joyce L Gioia  (Consultant and Futurist) commented about 1585207/525600 years ago:


Excellent analysis and explanation. You can really understand the contrast between the Taylor and the I-o method by reading this blog. Thanks for calling it to my attention.  

Robert Caveney  (Silicon valley executive) commented about 158519/52560 years ago:

Thank you Joyce

Mary Cook  (College Instructor) commented about 1585099/525600 years ago:

My greatest joy in teaching happens when I see a light come on in a student's eyes and they not only understand the information but it has personal meaning to them. We need a way to get to each one!  Well done, Robert!

Cynthia Wold  (Writer, Convener, Parent, Student) commented almost 65651/16425 years ago:

The best we can do for our children (and any of us) is to assist them in finding the precious gift they bring to the world. When we apply a cookie-cutter education we neglect to "SEE" our children and we create a world where the best in us is never manifested. The l-o method seems to be a much more effective way to MAXIMIZE the true wealth inherent in our culture.

 How can we help?